September 14, 2010

Ishiya Stonegrill

152 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9650 9510
Food: Japanese, Stonegrilled Meat and Seafood

On many occasions, when looking for street parking in the city, we have driven past Ishiya Stonegrill and tried to catch a glimpse through the restaurant's windows for any clue of what the 'stonegrill' concept may be about. So, I finally got around to making the call to book ourselves in for what we discovered to be an innovative, interactive dining experience.

Ishiya occupies an intimate space among some of Melbourne's hottest eateries in Chinatown. Its interior of elegant dark chocolate wooden furnishings, classic touches of oriental flowers and abstract paintings hanging against the deep rosey plum-coloured walls, all make for a warm and inviting atmosphere. On the Sunday night that we were there, hopeful guests were given the thumbs down for a table because the place was fully booked.

Upon arrival, Damian and I were briskly seated and the waitress gave us newbies a rundown of the menu and how the stone grilled dishes are served. From the monotonous tone and rapid manner in which her explanation was delivered, it was evident the same words are repeated to every table of diners that come in.

Basically, the idea of 'stone grilling' promotes a healthy meal, where food is served fresh at the table, sizzling on a 400°C heated, natural volcanic stone. This ancient method of cooking seals in all the natural juices and nutrients by rapidly searing the food at a high temperature, without burning it. There are also no added fats or oils, so you are encouraged to enjoy the pure flavours and tenderness of the food you order.

Each stonegrill set at Ishiya comes with a starter of sashimi, followed by your choice of main, served with a selection of five sauces:
- Ponzu
- Sesame, Tofu and Crab Roe
- Garlic Butter and Miso
- Wasabi and Black Pepper
- Teriyaki

Thinking that it wasn't enough, we also ordered an additional couple of  sensational tasting starters to kick off our meal.

Salmon Nigiri; Sashimi of Kingfish and Salmon. The raw fish was not as fresh as we had hoped. It was dull in appearance and the texture of the sashimi was quite sinewy and harsh.

Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab wrapped with Peking Duck-style Pastry

Creamy Baked Scallop with Mushrooms

Come main time, a waitress elaborately wheeled out a trolley, holding our stonegrills and chosen ingredients. She placed a piping hot stone in front of each of us, protected by a ceramic serving tray, and whacked on our slabs of meat, seafood and vegetables, which all sizzled and smoked upon hitting the volcanic surface. 

Due to the absence of oil, I found myself constantly lifting each item up as it was cooking to try and prevent it from sticking to the stone. Our food cooked a lot faster than expected, so we felt rushed to eat before everything became tough and overcooked. So much for being able to cook and enjoy the meat to our 'personal taste and liking'!

Nonetheless, we had a joyful time being semi chefs for the evening, happily dipping our grilled food into the complementing sauces, which we found enhanced the clean, sweet, refined flavours of our steaks, lobster and prawn.

Porterhouse Steak and Half Lobster Tail

Porterhouse Steak and Prawn

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